Hurricane Florence: The potentially catastrophic effects


Claire Jessen

In the past few days, more Americans across the country have been tuned into The Weather Channel than ever before. Having started off the coast of Africa about a week ago, Hurricane Florence has really taken the nation by storm (no pun intended). Steadily churning in the Atlantic, Florence has the potential for absolutely devastating effects. With predicted wind speeds of 115+ mph and the risk of serious flooding and storm surge, the east coast is at severe risk.  Hurricanes are some of the most devastating forms of severe weather, and with all the following conditions in play, Florence is headed towards the east coast with imminent danger. There are many factors going into why this hurricane could really make history.

The potential for extreme storm surge. Quite often when dealing with hurricanes, the most catastrophic element tends to be the storm surge, defined as the abnormal rise in seawater level during a storm, caused primarily by a storm’s winds pushing water onshore according to NOAA. Due to the alignment of Florence with the Eastern coastline, along with the size and intensity of the system, meteorologists across the country are predicting life-threatening storm surges despite the hurricane being downgraded to Category 2. The National Weather Service has warned residents of the Carolinas to prepare for anywhere from 9 to 13 feet of storm surge rushing into their towns and cities, which could be potentially catastrophic.

It’s huge. North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia have all been federally declared as States of Emergency, showing that this hurricane could affect hundreds of millions of lives. To be exact, there are more than 25 million people facing this threat, as the National Hurricane Center stated that anyone from Virginia to Alabama is at risk.The threat of tropical storm winds stretches over an area of 315 miles, which includes anywhere from Washington, D.C. to mid Georgia. “The larger and slower the storm is, the greater the threat and impact, and we have that here,” said NHC Director Ken Graham on Thursday. As Florence slowly moves inland, it truly has the potential to cause mass destruction.

It’s mimicking a past Hurricane. The last hurricane to hit the Carolinas was Hurricane Fran in 1996, which was a Category 3 with wind speeds maxing at 115 mph and 12 ft storm surges. Having formed near Africa and churned through the Atlantic, it appears that Florence could be a very similar storm. This is definitely not a good thing, since Fran was marked as one of the worst storms ever to hit the Carolinas, causing over $7 billion in damage and wrecking the coastline. Although Florence was recently downgraded to a Category 2, officials are still adhering to their devastating storm surge and wind speed predictions, making it appear that we could be reliving one of the worst hurricanes in the history of the Carolinas.

As Florence approaches with extreme power, millions have already evacuated. Although it appears that this storm will be worse than ever, it is important to appreciate how lucky our generation has been. Due to advanced radar and forecasting systems, thousands of lives have potentially been saved, all thanks to weather data and modern forecasting technologies. As the storm continues to make landfall over the next few days, it is likely that history will be unfolding before our eyes.